Thursday, May 26, 2005

Buffalo River Canoe Journals - 5: Putting On Shoes of Stone

It was a lot warmer this morning than yesterday so our breaking camp speed improved dramatically. Boats launched, we made excellent progress throughout the morning. Around eleven o'clock, a huge tailwind kicked up and literally blew us down the river for the most part. On one small bend in the river it was at our face and we had to paddle hard to keep from being blown back up stream, but other than that is was all behind us.

We ate lunch and had just started off again at one o'clock when the when started turning colder and the mercury in the thermometer started hurrying for lower ground. By two o'clock, we were all extremely cold and desperately searching for any kind of shelter from the wind. My arms and legs started throbbing in the cold and I knew the situation was starting to get serious. At two-thirty, we found a grove of trees on the river left sheltered at the base of a rock bluff and made camp. We set up the tents and climbed right in for an hour to warm our core temperatures back up. Once warmed, we were able to stay warm during supper preparation and cleanup but still were in bed by five. I got all my gear a little bit more organized than usual fearing a really cold morning and not wanting to fumble with a lot of straps and buckles in the cold.

My clothing on the river consists of a layer of synthetic wool like polypropylene, followed by a nylon shell and then layers of nylon and wool as needed. It is really good winter wear when the chances of getting wet are high because it dries extremely quickly and preserves your body heat. Had I been wearing wet cotton earlier today, I would have been hypothermic instead of just very cold, a difference of life or death. A couple times a day in shallow riffles, I have to get out of the canoe and walk it through due to the shallow water. This means my legs are wet quite often. Though the stuff next to my skin dries, some of my out layers freeze to the point it feels like plated armor. In the morning, my river shoes are like stone and it takes some persuasion to even get my feet inside but after a few moments, my body heat thaws them out enough to flex. They work differently in that you want them to trap a water layer next to your skin where your body heats warms it and acts like insulation. Good for wearing them during the day but a little bit cold and rough getting into them first thing in the morning.

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